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Finger-Lickin' Good

[whitespace] K-CI and Jojo
Love Always:
K-CI and Jojo.



KMEL's Holiday House of Soul displays latest in R&B and lip smacking.

By Cassandra Nash

Seeing the facade of San Francisco's Warfield Theater made me think of opera, but when I got inside the ornate old building last Dec. 6, R&B music was blaring and soul was in the hearts of an excited crowd. KMEL's House of Soul concert brought down the house with Chico DeBarge, Davina, Next, K-Ci and JoJo and Jon B.

Davina opened the four-hour show with her popular hit "It Feels Good." Not making the crowd feel so good was her quivering voice and lack of presence. She still managed to rustle up a little applause at the end of her brief (two songs!) show.

Chico DeBarge, younger brother of El DeBarge, surprised the crowd with his casual holiday attire (red jacket and a green shirt) and handsomely boyish face. His smash hit, "Iggin Me," came off as smooth and sweet as his looks, but something was mysteriously wrong with his performance.

Hiding in front of a huge keyboard stationed at the center of the stage, DeBarge seemed afraid of the crowd cheering him on. (Might this have anything to do with his recent four-year jail sentence on drug-related charges?) The few times he did move away from his safety net, he jumped like a frightened child when the girls reached out for him.

For Chico, two songs were not enough. He sang about five numbers from his current album, Long Time No See, that the crowd did not seem to recognize. Not a smart move. Losing interest in a hurry, people started to shout "Get off the stage."

Next was Next, hyping up the crowd with its popular hit "Buttalove." The three-man crew displayed lots of bare chest and tongue. The fellas were definitely talent and delivered some nice harmony between the bouts of appendage-licking. Last year, male performers dominated their shows by grabbing their crotches. This year, it is the hand to mouth and tongue thing. But who's complaining? Women say we never get recognition! Well, bam, there it is.

Of course, it did not matter what K-Ci and JoJo (from Jodeci) sang. All the two brothers had to do was stand on the stage, and the crowd would have lapped them up with glee. The duo's entrance was classic, with a DJ's mix of their platinum hits blaring from the empty stage, making the crowd beg for more. Together, they sang songs from their new album, Love Always, and had the girls mesmerized and the men throwing up their hands to the brothers' hyped, stylized vocal rhythms.

Finally, young Jon B. entered the stage prompting the crowd to go out of control with his fine appearance and smooth catlike walk. He dove right into his first song ("Shine") from his new CD, Cool Relax. His silky, sexy dance moves and mellow sweet-sounding voice turned on the crowd. His relaxed coyness was pure R&B. Women in the front row responded accordingly.

Jon gave the crowd an emotional moment when he stopped to speak of the late Tupac Shakur. Ears were wide and eyes watered as Jon dedicated the show and his song to the late rap star. "Are You Still Down," with a sample of Tupac's voice, came off as though Tupac were standing right next to him.

Jon B.'s voice rang in the ears of the slow-moving crowd inching toward the Warfield exits. The opera house was temporarily converted into a House of Soul.

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